Oil Price And Cost Of Our Collective Docility - by Japheth Omojuwa

First of all, ask yourself, what is the logic behind Nigerians buying diesel and kerosene at the same price today as they did last year when the difference between the price of a barrel of oil today and last year is over $50? For those still able to think without the cloud of confusion caused by partisanship, there is definitely an ongoing scam in the downstream sector and the size may just be bigger than the monumental heist of 2011. 

Let me break it down in naira; the price of oil has reduced by as much as N10,000 since last year – at more than 50 per cent reduction – but a supposedly deregulated diesel and petroleum downstream sector has never seen its prices shift against the global norm that has seen prices go down all over the world, from the United States, to the United Kingdom, from India and down here to sub Saharan Africa.

Now, we will quickly jump the gun and start blaming our regular thieves in government and their cronies posing as businessmen but aren’t we the biggest culprits here? We have been watching oil price take a plunge but we have not even bothered to ask, what happened to the pump prices in Nigeria? Oh, do we need the late Gani Fawehinmi and Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti to lead this particular fight again? But really, when are we as a people ever going to fight for ourselves? Is it after we pray and Jesus finally appears to say, “If you like pray till tomorrow, the power to save your country is in your hands!”?

I have an idea, maybe, we should beg Fela Anikulapo-Kuti to do a song about this? Oh! He did one that should inspire you, “Zombie oh, Zombie, Zombie no move unless you tell am to move, Zombie!” Another old Fela line aptly captures our docility even today, “My people sef dey fear too much…we fear to fight for freedom, we fear to fight for liberty…we no wan die…we no wan quench…papa dey for house…mama dey for house.” We will never run out of excuses to keep quiet about the things that hurt us most but we will never get out of this mess until we find our voices. We need to walk the talk of all that angers us about this ordinarily beautiful but unfortunately abused country.

It is indeed funny that we find ourselves in the same position decade after decade. We trust a new government to do better than the old by getting more things right. Most times, new governments come in amidst jubilation and high expectations from the people. Within months, the song begins to change as the promising government eventually starts to lose goodwill. What hardly happens are the people actually going on the streets to make their feelings known, they often immediately start looking to have a new government replace the current one.

It is okay to work out plans to do away with a bad government, what is not okay is to let every bad government run its course without the people at least working to make sure it gets the job done while its time runs out. We cannot always look to new governments to save us if we don’t decide to save ourselves. The worst leader would be forced to get more things right if we were not this docile a people. As children, most of us naturally protested to have our parents feed us. As children, we’d cry at night to let our parents know that the heat was getting to us. The noise from our cries ensured that our parents got more or less forced to attend to our needs. Children often have their way simply because they are natural protesters.

On that note, we Nigerians have a lot to learn from children. The child gets what it wants because they make life uncomfortable for their mother until they will get done. Yes, politicians have failed Nigerians but we the people have failed ourselves too. Pick Nigerians of high integrity, with time tested values and expertise to run this country, they’d only do marginally better than the crops of leaders we have had in the past half a century. The reason is because politicians are indebted to too many people, cabals and forces. These forces are their permanent distractions. It is often, almost always, impossible for a leader to be tuned into the real thing; running a country or a state. The allure and blindness that come with power eventually get these leaders carried away.

The onus is on the people to cure that blindness. An average president lives in a prison. There is hardly anytime to follow the news or read the papers. They are left to read what their aides want them to read. They are often always in situations where they get told that the people are so happy with them they are working to see how they can make the leader live for another 900 years so that they can continue to lead the country for that long. Power is a garden full of sycophants. It takes a lot of intentional control, personal stubbornness and self-awareness to have power and remember its essence. Many get carried away by power, especially those who never prepared for or wanted it.

Elections are here again. As it is, there is a huge chance a new government will be formed on May 29, 2015. Again, it would take a certain level of delusion or getting lost in the garden of power to pretend that the incumbent is not in danger of losing. If a new government comes in, trust Nigerians to celebrate. We will expect them to be different, to be better and to indeed fix Nigeria. They will come with such intentions too but like every government, they will be in power, dwelling as tenants in a garden full of sycophants. Except, we, the people, run the government with them, getting them to be immediately aware of what we want or don’t want, we’d be looking to vote them out within two years of their tenure.

If we retain the status quo, it would of course mean that we are okay with the way they are running the country. That wouldn’t need us to protest or get them to run the country better. They have been running the country since 2010 so if we vote them to run it till 2019, we’d be saying, “Thank you for all you did between 2010 and 2015, now we will be trusting you with another four years.” No matter what parties post as ads in newspapers, one can only hope that the decision of the majority of Nigerians is influenced by the three main issues; the economy, national security and the fight against corruption.

The ball is in the court of the average Nigerian. The ball has always been even though we wrongly assume that we only have power during elections. No, citizens have power at all times. Having it is of course one thing, knowing we have it is another and using it is in itself another entirely. We just must know that privately debating our problems won’t cut it, we need to walk the talk. Until then, nothing will change even if we change the government every New Year.

- Japheth Omojuwa is a social media entrepreneur